No forced merger for Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby

Monthly Chronicle - - News - Jenny Bar­lass

There will be no forced merger of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai Coun­cil fol­low­ing a unan­i­mous verdict by three Court of Ap­peal judges.

The an­nounce­ment re­ceived mixed re­ac­tions from both sides and throws into chaos Premier Bere­jik­lian’s merger pol­icy in which city coun­cils are be­ing forced to merge while re­gional ones can de­cide for them­selves.

The Court found there were rea­sons in law why the pro­posal to forcibly merge Kur­ing-gai Coun­cil and Hornsby Shire should not pro­ceed in its cur­rent form, in­clud­ing that the ac­coun­tancy firm KPMG’s re­port into the merger was kept se­cret from both the of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­gat­ing the merger Garry West, and the pub­lic.

They said Mr West could not prop­erly carry out his as­sess­ment with­out the re­port.

Speak­ing af­ter the judge­ment was handed down, Mayor An­der­son said she was "heart­ened" by the Court’s de­ci­sion.

"The very real con­cerns of our Coun­cils and res­i­dents over this merger have been ig­nored by the gov­ern­ment and we feel vindicated by to­day's de­ci­sion.

"This merger should not pro­ceed be­cause Ku-ring-gai ratepay­ers will be robbed of the means to de­cide how and where our rates are spent - and of any real say in how our lo­cal area is man­aged.

"We be­lieve the Court's de­ci­sion sig­nals a turn­ing point for Premier Bere­jik­lian's Gov­ern­ment. If they con­tinue with the merger process they will be fly­ing in the face of our com­mu­nity and the court."

The Mayor said she and her coun­cil­lor col­leagues would wait to see what the state gov­ern­ment would do af­ter the court's de­ci­sion.

"We will con­tinue to seek meet­ings with Premier Bere­jik­lian and the Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Gabrielle Up­ton to press our case against be­ing forcibly merged with Hornsby," Mayor An­der­son said.

Hornsby Shire Mayor Steve Rus­sell has ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment at the Court of Ap­peal de­ci­sion. “For more than a year we have been wait­ing for Ku-ring-gai Coun­cil and the State Gov­ern­ment to re­solve this is­sue,” Mayor Rus­sell said.

“Per­haps now is the time for the NSW Gov­ern­ment to re­visit our pro­posal of one Up­per North Shore Coun­cil, which in­cludes all of the Ep­ping CBD and parts of Ryde.

“That would be a valu­able step in the right di­rec­tion if they are truly com­mit­ted to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­form this state needs.”

Ku- ring- gai Coun­cil is now await­ing a re­sponse to its let­ters to Gabrielle Up­ton for re­quests to meet with the Premier to take this to the next stage - to halt the whole merger process in its tracks. Mean­while Op­po­si­tion Leader Luke Fo­ley is pres­sur­ing the Gov­ern­ment to make the KPMG re­port pub­lic. The Depart­ment of Premier and Cabi­net did not re­spond to re­quests by this news­pa­per for in­for­ma­tion about why the KPMG re­port was never made pub­lic.

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